35. 3. 10. 13. No, these are not the quick pick for the next Lotto, these are the important figures from last Saturday’s successful beer celebration held at Cal State – San Marcos. If you were among the vigilant early birds that bought the $35 for a three-hour session filled with ten beer samples at the Stone Brewing 13th Anniversary party, then you know why these numbers are luckier than any mega millions.
Stone Brewing corralled over 40 breweries to Northern San Diego County to pour some of their regular stable of beers plus a few special releases for two sold-out sessions. The impressive list would have taken me two or three days to go through completely and with the proper appreciation. Without further ado, here are my reviews of what I tasted, followed by what I hope to get a taste of in the future.
1. Jolly Pumpkin – Orweizen Blend # 1
Ron Jeffries’ Michigan brewery creates some great Belgian beers and this was a fantastic way to start. A sour wheat beer. It was a beautiful hazy light yellow. Nicely balanced between sour and wheat. Very easy to sip.
2. Maui Brewing – Black Pearl
This was one of the most popular booths at the party. Because my friend and I got in line early, we were able to start sipping before the line really grew. Black Pearl is their excellent CoCoNut Porter aged in rum barrels. I am not a fan of beers that lose their essential beer-iness to a harder liquor but the rum really imparted an extra dimension to an already premier beer. The rum was not overwhelming; instead it accented the coconut and roasted notes of the porter.
3. Green Flash Brewing – Fizzy Yellow Beer
Going from heavy porter to pilsner is a radical style change for sure, but Green Flash is a great IPA maker and I wanted to see what they would create in a pilsner. This was a beautiful yellow color with no head. This was an in your face pils. Bright with what I refer to as the typical “tinny” flavor. Another great summer beer that does not lack in flavor. This was perfect with the Arrogant Bastard beer sausage. (One of the many fine eating choices available, you could also get beer cheese, onion rings and cheesecake)
4. Stone Brewing – Cali-Belgique
I know what you are thinking. Cali-Belgique? With so many new beers and breweries and special collaborations, why have an old familiar stand-by? For starters, it was part of the special on cask with British style hand pump along with Vanilla Bean Porter and 13th Anniversary Ale with Amarillo hops. Oh, did I mention that it was aged in French Oak? This was my favorite beer of the day. Creamy with orange flavors at first then a small hit of hops on the back of the tongue. It was a hoppy orange creamsicle.
5. Mikkeller – Monk’s Brew
This was an interesting beer that I am still deciding if I truly like or not. It was not dark and not light. Hazy and unfiltered brown Belgian abbey ale. Alcohol was prevalent but not overpowering. Light taste of Belgian candy sugar as well.
6. Brewdog – Paradox Isle of Arran
Another porter on a hot day? Why of course. I heartily enjoy going against my own conventional wisdom of drinking beer that pairs with the weather. I have had other offerings from Brewdog before that underwhelmed me, specifically the Punk IPA. This, however, was quite good. Dark but not over the top. Slight coconut taste to this as well.
7. Ballast Point – Sculpin IPA
This beer is all the rage across Los Angeles. Verdugo Bar tapped it recently so I needed to see what the fuss was about. This was the prototypical San Diego hop monster. Piney smell and blast of hops that coats the tongue and stays there.
8. Craftsman Brewing – Summers End
PUCKER!! This was one sour, sour beer. Extremely sour to my taste. This was a little hard for me to drink. No discernible fruit flavors to mellow out the beer.
9. Port Brewing – Sangre DC
The sour beer version of the famous Sangria. The Port Brewing booth had the punch bowl and the ladle and I was ready to write it off as a prank but it was very nice. Berry flavor and an almost buttery texture. It was a gorgeous red color as well. Thanks to Tomm Carroll from the Celebrator for pointing me in this direction.
10. Lightning Brewing – Electrostatic Ale
One of my goals for this celebration was to try at least one beer from a brewery I had never visited or tried before. Lightning is based in Poway, California and their Electrostatic Ale was a lighter and more balanced version of the Monk’s Brew I had earlier. Malty with a touch of sugar and a bit of alcohol as well. A very nice beer that makes me curious about the rest of their offerings.
As with any well done festival, I always leave wanting and wishing for more. I skipped Avery altogether even though they were pouring a beer called Voltron. I did not get to taste the Japanese beer from Ise Kadoya or the Norwegian brewery Nogne-O. The Collaboration booth was swamped and with the other options beckoning me I missed out on the Black Pilsner that Stone, Brewdog and Cambridge brewing put together. I chose the Green Flash pils over the Russian River Sound Czech even though both names are excellent. And I also missed out on some mead that will have to stay on my to-drink list for the time being.
At the end of the day, I posed one question to my friend (who had sampled nearly all the IPA’s available) if he thought it was worth it. He answered that $35 was probably low when you factored in the beers, the food available, the charities* that will now receive much-needed cash and that it was all run so smoothly thanks to an army of volunteers. We both would have bought tickets for next years anniversary celebration at that moment but alas, we have to wait another year for #14.
(*Here is the luckiest number of all. Over $150,000 dollars was raised for The Boys and Girls Club of San Marcos, The Surfrider Foundation, Palomar Family YMCA and www.fightALD.org)
Find more of Sean Inman’s writing on his blog, Beer Search Party.